An analysis of the Serranas of Juan Ruiz
Martinez, Maria Teresa Leal de
Master of Arts
The serranas of El libro de buen amor, are first person narratives of a self-conscious narrator-poet on an aimless journey in a dangerous mountain area. The serranas are comprised of four pairs of poems. Each poem relates an encounter between a stranger and a mountain dweller. The first poem of each pair is written in cuaderna via the metric of the didactic mester de clerecia. In cuaderna, the narrator reports four times that his story actually happened. In the zájel a mudejar lyric, the narrator-poet claims to present an imaginative version of his supposedly actual encounter. These eight poems originate from a peninsular lyric that Menendez Pidal termed "popular" and portray a "serrana salteadora" whose inspiration came from reality. Although the journey ends with a religious retreat, the travails of the narrator along the way exhibit piety and lust, Americo Castro attributed the coexistence of such opposites to a Hispano-Arabic influence. This thesis examines the confluence of didactic and ludic elements in the serranas, instances of parody of courtly love poems, and the medieval convention by which the narrator recounts autobiographical material. The anthropological material in the serranas is analyzed in the context of the realistic elements in the poems. In the conclusion, it is noted that the motivating force of each encounter is the desire on the part of the mountain woman to get something from the stranger, and on her terms. On tracing traditional motifs in the serranas, it is evident that the grotesque woman portrayed in the final episode in cuaderna yia. is a characterization of the medieval wild woman. As a result of her intervention, the traveler’s life is saved, and he escapes the mountains to take refuge in a church dedicated to the Virgen of Vado. Although he begins his journey intent on the pleasures of this world, the narrator ends it with a vigil, like a medieval pilgrim, intent on his salvation in the world to come.